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120

WHITTIER ALIGNED WITH GARRISON

giving up of all his earthly prospects and consigning himself to lifelong poverty and disgrace. The lines which he addressed to Charles Sumner apply quite as well to himself:

God said: "Break thou these yokes! undo

These heavy burdens! I ordain
A work to last thy whole life through,
A ministry of strife and pain.

"Forego thy dreams. of lettered ease,
Put thou the scholar's promise by,
The rights of man are more than these."
He heard and answered: "Here am I!"

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Garrison's declaration of principles in the first number of "The Liberator" was as bold as the "Theses which Luther nailed to the door of the church in Wittenberg: "Unconditional emancipation is the immediate duty of the master, and the immediate right of the slave... I will be as harsh as truth, as uncompromising as justice; I am in earnest, I will not equivocate, I will not excuse, I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard." And Whittier responded to Garrison's appeal:

My heart hath leaped to answer thine,

And echo back thy words,

As leaps the warrior's at the shine
And flash of kindred swords!

It was no mere burst of youthful enthusiasm, but a heroic consecration to duty. For the thirtieth anniversary of the Anti-slavery Society he wrote: "I am thankful to divine Providence that turned me so early away from what Roger Williams calls the world's great Trinity-pleasure, profit, and honor,'-to take

EXPOSTULATION

121

side with the poor and oppressed. I am not insensible to literary reputation; I love, perhaps too well, the praise and good will of my fellow men; but I set a higher value to my name as appended to the Antislavery Declaration of 1833, than on the title-page of any book." And to a boy seeking counsel in after years he said: "My lad, if thou wouldst win success, join thyself to some unpopular but noble cause."

This enlistment of Whittier was immediately followed by service. He printed at his own charges a pamphlet entitled "Justice and Expediency," in which the whole question of slavery was calmly and learnedly considered. Then too began that long succession of fiery and thrilling appeals to the conscience and heart of the North, which made him, more than all other poets combined, a representative of freedom and a power to nerve our people to defend the Union in its struggle with the slaveholding aristocracy:

Our fellow-countrymen in chains!
Slaves, in a land of light and law!

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Slaves, crouching on the very plains
Where rolled the storm of Freedom's war!

What ho! our countrymen in chains!

The whip on woman's shrinking flesh!

Our soil yet reddening with the stains

Caught from her scourging, warm and fresh!
What! mothers from their children riven!
What! God's own image bought and sold!
Americans to market driven,

And bartered as the brute for gold!

So read his poem, "Expostulation." He paid the penalty. Poetry in those days was no selling com

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modity. With his mother and sister he lived on little more than five hundred dollars a year-the salary 'of his editorship. He gave up all thought of marriage, though there is abundant evidence that he longed for wedded companionship. Ill health shut him out from public gatherings and from regular city life. When he did venture into the field, it was to visit Garrison in the Philadelphia jail where he was confined for calling a slave-dealer a pirate, or to see that same Garrison dragged through the streets of Boston with a rope around his neck. The mob broke the windows of the Haverhill church, where Whittier attended an antislavery meeting, and he was pelted with stones and rotten eggs in Concord. But he says well:

The burden of a prophet's power
Fell on me in that fearful hour."

Forsaking poetry for humanity, he made both poetry and humanity his own. Now first his art became cosmopolitan and commanding. Losing his life for Christ's sake, he found it.

At the age of twenty-five Whittier was called “a gay young Quaker," though he had "kept his innocency." His gaiety was the expression of a sensitive and kindly nature. But it was accompanied by a deep indignation against impurity and wrong-doing. Quaker?" was the reply to one who pointed him out; "he will fight!" He certainly had fighting blood in his veins, and he explained this by his inheritance from a Norman ancestry. Gail Hamilton worked for him

66

4" Ezekiel."

A FIGHTING SPIRIT BUT A NON-RESISTANT 123

a pair of slippers with the effigy of an eagle whose claws grasped thunderbolts. Whittier told her that she was as sharp with her needle as she was with her pen. When it came to the question of our dealings with slavery, it was hard for him to repress his belligerent instincts. Yet his peace principles made him a nonresistant. He admired John Brown, but he disapproved of his methods. He refused to accept a pike which was sent him as a memento of John Brown's raid, saying, “It is not a Christian weapon: it looks too much like murder." Though his poetry had done much to infuse the fighting spirit into others, he would have let the Southern States go, rather than subdue them by force of arms. He would have paid slaveholders for their slaves, but he scorned to catch their fugitives. When our Civil War broke out, he looked on in sorrow, and waited for God to determine the result. Yet his sympathies were all with our Union army, and he could not hide from himself the conviction that in some great crises of history war is inevitable. His poem entitled "Italy," indeed, makes it plain that war is sometimes God's messenger:

I know the pent fire heaves its crust,
That sultry skies the bolt will form
To smite them clear; that Nature must
The balance of her powers adjust,

Though with the earthquake and the storm.

God reigns, and let the earth rejoice!
I bow before His sterner plan.
Dumb are the organs of my choice;
He speaks in battle's stormy voice,

His praise is in the wrath of man!

124 WHITTIER'S DIFFERENCES WITH GARRISON

Whittier was more sane and practical than Garrison. He was more unselfish, and he had more of tact and skill. Garrison was dictatorial, and unwilling to take any subordinate position. Whittier was willing to humble himself for the sake of the cause. Was the Bible against anti-slavery? then Garrison declared the Bible to be wrong; did the church oppose? then the church must be reformed; did the Constitution forbid? then the Constitution must be destroyed; was the Union impossible with slavery abolished? then death to the Union! Garrison called the Constitution "a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell," and he demanded that it be immediately annulled. He would not vote, and he renounced all allegiance to a government which was in league with slavery. Whittier, on the other hand, yielded in smaller matters, that he might win in the greater. He remained a voting Quaker. So there ensued a division between these friends, which lasted for years and which greatly intensified Whittier's loneliness and suffering. Yet reconciliation came at last, and each respected the independence of the other. Each had struck his honest blow, and slavery was no more. Whittier nobly commemorates Garrison's service in the verses written after his death:

The storm and peril overpast,

The hounding hatred shamed and still,
Go, soul of freedom! take at last

The place which thou alone canst fill.

Confirm the lesson taught of old-
Life saved for self is lost, while they

Who lose it in His service hold

The lease of God's eternal day.

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